Interview: Murphy on City, State & the Enlightenment in Poland, Ukraine & Belarus

31181086_9780822964629_xlProf. Curtis Murphy recently gave an interview about his forthcoming book, From Citizens to Subjects: City, State, and the Enlightenment in Poland, Ukraine and Belarus, with William Szuch, who hosts the UkeTube channel at YouTube, devoted to new books related to Ukraine.  Prof. Murphy’s book compares the transformations in urban society in regions of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which were acquired by Austria, Russia and Napoleon.  Enlightenment-era rulers believed that the state could bring about improvements in urban society and an economic revitalization of the region through rationalization and hierarchical control, but policies based on abstract principles and foreign models produced a host of unintended consequences, which undermined each regime’s stated priorities.  In the case of Ukraine, Russian rule, which aimed to “reintegrate” the new territories with the empire, instead fostered a separate Ukrainian identity and Ukrainian distinctiveness.  Prof. Murphy’s book will be published this June with the University of Pittsburgh Press.

To watch the interview, please visit


Publication: Beben on Saladin and the Crusades in Muslim Historical Memory


Happy New Year from HPRS!  We are pleased to announce the publication of a new article by Dr. Daniel Beben:

“Remembering Saladin: The Crusades and the Politics of Heresy in Persian Historiography”

This article is forthcoming with the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.  A pre-publication version may be accessed here:


In this study I examine the presentation of Saladin and the Crusades within the genre of Persian universal histories produced from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century.  While a number of recent studies have begun to explore the place of the Crusades in the historical memory of the Islamic world, to date little attention has been given to the question of the manner in which the ensuing Mongol conquests affected subsequent Muslim memory of the Crusades.  In this article I argue that historiographers of the Mongol and post-Mongol eras largely sought to legitimate the conquests through evocation of heresy and by celebrating the Mongols’ role in combating alleged heretical elements within Muslim society, most notably the Ismāʿīlīs.  While Saladin is universally remembered today first and foremost for his reconquest of Jerusalem from the Crusaders, within the context of the agenda of Persian historiography of the post-Mongol era the locus of his significance was shifted to his overthrow of the Ismāʿīlī Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, to the almost complete exclusion of his role in the Crusades.  This article challenges long-standing assumptions that the figure of Saladin was largely forgotten within the Muslim world until the colonial era, and instead presents an alternative explanation for the supposed amnesia in the Muslim world regarding the Crusades in the pre-modern era.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Beben on his latest publication!

Image credit:

Publication: Griffin on Bureaucracy and Knowledge Creation in Early Modern Russia


How do we communicate? The modern world has any number of communications technologies; you are reading this on one of them. But your communication device was not available to people in the early modern Russian empire, who still needed to exchange questions, answers, thoughts, and ideas. A new volume – Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia, 1600-1850 – considers the various ways in which official and unofficial communications were made in and around the Russian Empire. One chapter is by NU’s historian of science Clare Griffin, and deals with bureaucracy as communication. ‘Bureaucracy and Knowledge Creation: The Apothecary Chancery’ takes the Russian Empire’s official medical department, the Apothecary Chancery, as a case study, following that department’s involvement in a witchcraft trial, to show how paperwork making its way through that department linked together the knowledge of the medical practitioners with the concerns of the Russian bureaucrats, and circulated physicians’ answers to bureaucrats’ questions around the department, the Kremlin, and the broader Russian imperial bureaucracy.

Appropriate to the theme of communication, both Professor Griffin’s chapter, and the volume as a whole, are available as free, Open Access, pdfs. Get your copy here.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Griffin on her latest publication!

Publication: Bowen on Public Health and Venereal Disease

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new article by our HPRS colleague Dr. Elliott Bowen:

“Before Tuskegee: Public Health and Venereal Disease in Hot Springs, Arkansas”

The article has been published in the online peer-reviewed journal Southern Spaces and may be accessed here.

Paper abstract:

During the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, the American South was home to one of the world’s most renowned centers for the treatment of syphilis. Throughout this era, tens of thousands of syphilitic men and women sought treatment for their illnesses by traveling to the central Arkansas city of Hot Springs, whose near-boiling waters were thought to possess a therapeutic power capable of restoring the venereally-afflicted to health. Seeking to tap into its reputation as the “Mecca of the American Syphilitic,” in 1921 the United States Public Health Service (PHS) selected Hot Springs as the site of the country’s first federally-operated VD clinic. Over the course of the next two decades, more than 60,000 venereal health-seekers (black as well as white, male as well as female) received free treatment for syphilis and/or gonorrhea at this model PHS facility, and their experiences provide new insights into the class-based, racial, and gendered aspects of the federal government’s early twentieth-century public health work. Opened ten years before the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1932-1972) began, the story of the Hot Springs clinic illustrates how forcefully eugenics pervaded the PHS’ campaigns against syphilis and gonorrhea.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Bowen on his recent publication!

News: HPRS is hiring!

The Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan invites applications for an open-rank faculty position in pre-modern Asian studies. The period and specialization are open, but preference will be given to candidates specializing in the history and/or religious and philosophical traditions of China and Inner Asia before 1644.

Successful senior applicants will be expected to have a demonstrated track record of excellence in teaching, research, and service. Applicants at the junior level will be expected to demonstrate potential for excellence in all three areas. Responsibilities include but are not limited to teaching classes (teaching load is 2+2 with TA support for large classes), curriculum and program development, and research. The position is available from August 2018. Contracts are for a period of three years and are renewable upon a positive review.

Nazarbayev University was launched in 2010 as a premier national and regional university, partnered with some of the most internationally-recognized names in Higher Education. The strategic partner of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences is the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Admission to NU is highly competitive and the students are the most academically gifted in Kazakhstan. Most students participate in the NU foundation year program, and thus enter the School of Humanities and Social Sciences with extensive English language training and academic preparation. SHSS programs emphasize student-oriented learning, with small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio of about 12:1. All classes are taught in English.

The History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies department includes 15 members and offers a major in History and minors in History and Philosophy/Religious Studies. All of its members publish actively.

Nazarbayev University offers an attractive benefits package, including:

  • competitive compensation;
  • housing based on family size and rank;
  • relocation allowance;
  • air tickets to the home country, twice per year;
  • no-cost medical insurance, with wide geographical coverage;
  • educational allowance for children.

NU values diversity and strongly encourages applications from women and other underrepresented minorities.

To apply, please send a letter of interest, current c.v., contact information of three referees, teaching evaluations, and a writing sample to by November 5, 2017. More information about the school is available at Questions related to the position, the university, or living and working in Astana can be sent to Nikolay Tsyrempilov, search committee chair (

Upcoming Conference: “On the Periphery of Collapsing Empire: National Minorities and the 1917 Revolution”

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nazarbayev University, is happy to announce that they will be hosting a conference marking the 100-year anniversary of the February and October Revolutions of 1917, entitled “On the Periphery of Collapsing Empire: National Minorities and the 1917 Revolution”. The conference aims to move beyond the boundaries of the nationalist historiographies of Post-Soviet States and to devote attention to questions that have thus far been undeservedly ignored, such as the cooperation of autonomous governments of the various regions of the empire, governmental projects and ideological discourses, national and religious movements and their participants during the transitional periods of the Revolution and Civil War on the ‘national periphery’. Particular attention will be devoted to the questions of everyday violence and moral responsibility for transgressions, problems of collective memory, national myths, and the legacy of events a century old. Participants in the conference will discuss the history of revolutionary events on the Kazakh steppe, in the Volga-Ural region, the Caucasus, Siberia, and the Russian Far East. The political responses of Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Buddhists to the political crisis will also receive substantial attention.

Scholars from Kazakhstan’s leading research institutes and universities will take part in the conference, alongside academics from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and St Petersburg, Institute of Russian History of Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of History of Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Heidelburg University, the University of Oxford, Harvard University, and others.

The keynote lectures will be given by Professor Zhuldyzbek Abylkhozhin of the Choqan Valikhanov Institute for History and Anthropology, Professor Jeremy Smith of the University of Eastern Finland, Professor Svetlana Koval’skaia of Lev Gumilyov Eurasian National University, and Professor Niccolo Pianciola of Lingnan University (Hong Kong).

This conference was organised in cooperation with the Lev Gumilyov Eurasian National University, and Evney Buketov Karaganda State University.

The opening reception, and all panels, will take place in the Senate Hall in Block C1 of Nazarbayev University (53 Kabanbay Batyr Avenue, Astana).

If you would like to attend the conference, please email by November 2. It is essential to register ahead of time, as access to the campus is only possible with a pass. Please click here for the conference programme. We will be glad to see you!


News: Meet the New Faculty: Dr. Anna Graber


Dr. Anna Graber is a historian of modern and early modern Russia specializing in the scientific culture of the Russian Enlightenment.  She received her Ph.D. in History from Yale University in December 2016.  Before coming to NU, Dr. Graber was a Davis Center Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University.  In addition to her affiliation with NU, Dr. Graber is a Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Primary Source Studies at Ural Federal University in Ekaterinburg, Russia and a Davis Center Associate.  Anna Graber’s work examines the science and technology of the Russian mining industry in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.  During this period, Russia went from being a net importer of metals to Eurasia’s leading producer of iron, copper, and silver.  Using sources including factory records, scientific correspondence, mineral catalogues, maps, folk tales, and metallurgical treatises, Dr. Graber investigates the creation and circulation of mining knowledge across Eurasia from German mining centers to Eastern Siberia.  In the book manuscript she is preparing for publication, Tsardom of Rock: Science, Society, and Enlightenment in the Russian Mining Industry, Dr. Graber situates mineralogical study and mining activity in the context of Enlightened reform.  She argues that mines in the Urals and Siberia served as laboratories where wealthy mine owners and state mining officials tested new methods of knowing and governing the Russian Empire.

Dr. Graber says, “I chose to come to NU for the opportunity to experiment and grow as a scholar and teacher.  Already early in the semester I’ve found great satisfaction in working closely with the excellent, engaged students in my seminars.  It’s been a fascinating pedagogical experience to teach Kazakh and Russian history in the former Soviet Union — students have a range of background knowledge and strongly held opinions that I can’t always predict, and it’s been rewarding to work through primary sources with students that sometimes support, and often challenge, what they thought they knew.  I’ve found an intellectual home among my colleagues in our department, especially with so many fellow Russianists around, and I’ve already enjoyed some great conversations.  I really appreciate the energy of this new university, and I’m excited for what I can accomplish here.”

For the fall semester 2017 Dr. Graber is teaching HST 100: History of Kazakhstan and HST 327: Global Cold War.

Welcome to NU Dr. Graber!

News: Meet the New Faculty: Dr. Rozaliya Garipova


Rozaliya Garipova’s research and teaching focus on the Islamic history of Russia, Central Eurasia and the larger Muslim world. She is particularly interested in exploring issues of religious authority, Islamic law and women and gender in Islam as well as the interaction between Islamic law and empire. Rozaliya received her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. She held a number of prestigious fellowships, such as Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship at the Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, membership at the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton and James Billington fellowship at Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center, at Washington DC. Her articles have appeared in The Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, Islamic Law and Society, Die Welt Des Islams, Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law. Rozaliya’s current book project is a religious history of Muslim family life in the Volga-Urals and Western Siberia.

Dr. Garipova says, “I am very excited to come to Nazarbayev University and there are many reasons for that. Before travelling to Kazakhstan I finally decided to read a memoir – which was on my to-read-list for a long time – of a Tatar woman who vividly depicted her life in Jarkent, Almaty, Qulja and other Central Asian cities between the 1890s and the 1920s. I felt a strong desire to repeat this route and learn more about the peoples I am teaching about. I was long fascinated with Islamic history but teaching it and researching on it here gives a special pleasure – the students are smart and there is a fascinating group of scholars who are working on the religious (and other) history of Central Eurasia. I am very glad to be in a team, something that is not always easy to find in other universities. As a team, there are great opportunities to work together on teaching the History of Kazakhstan, on developing an MA Program in Eurasian Studies, as well as organizing workshops and collective research projects.”

For the fall 2017 semester Dr. Garipova is teaching HST 100: History of Kazakhstan and HST/REL 329: Women in Islamic History.

Welcome to NU Dr. Garipova!

News: Meet the New Faculty: Dr. Curtis Murphy


Curtis Murphy received his Ph.D. from Georgetown University with a focus on East Central Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His research focuses on the east European Enlightenment, interfaith and multinational cohabitation in imperial contexts, urban history, and identity in the premodern world. Professor Murphy’s forthcoming book, From Citizens to Subjects: City and State in Poland, Ukraine and Belarus at the Onset of the Modern Age explores the experience of urban residents in cities of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the eighteenth century through the Great Reforms. Professor Murphy had also published articles in Slavic Review and Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, and he is working on an article about a blood libel trial in an eighteenth century private town, which highlights the unexpected weight of legalism and litigation in a feudal setting. His next project will focus on cosmopolitan identity and imperial service in nineteenth century Eurasia. Prior to teaching at Nazarbayev University, Professor Murphy taught at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Colby College and Georgetown University.

Dr. Murphy says, “Prior to my arrival in Kazakhstan this August, I had lived and travelled extensively in Eastern Europe and Russia, but I had never had an opportunity to visit Central Asia. Most of my research focuses on the western periphery of the former Russian Empire, particularly Poland and Ukraine, and I was intrigued by possible parallels in colonial policies and imperial legacies between my own area of expertise and this region. I also chose to come to Nazarbayev University because I was excited about the prospect of not only teaching and researching History, but also participating in a genuine, history-making endeavor. Building up an institution is not really possible in the United States or much of Europe, and I hope that here I can help create something that will be of lasting significance for the whole region. As a specialist in urban history, I also very much wanted to observe a purpose-built capital in-the-making, as only a few such cities exist in the world.”

For the fall 2017 semester Dr. Murphy is teaching HST 131: European History I and HST 335: European Nationalisms.

Welcome to NU Dr. Murphy!